The issue of creation of additional state is fundamental and should not be left to partisan politicians. The issue goes beyond party politics, having regard to the economic and other problems facing the country”.
As I stated last week, events in Nigeria following the coup of 1966 continue to show that the decision to adopt the Presidential system was not well thought out. Firstly the American form of Presidential System of government currently being experimented by Nigeria is too expensive for our resources to conveniently accommodate. It is high time we faced the reality of our existence. Having regard to the history of America, its experience and its resources the American Presidential System of Government is perfectly suitable for its federalism which is being operated religiously and in accordance with the tenets of their union. The same situation, background experience and history do not justify its application to Nigeria. The adoption and wholesale application of American federalism and Presidential System of Government by the Military is a monumental mistake in the first place. The importation of the system has not done the Country any good at all. That is the bitter truth. The application of the American presidential system in Nigeria has been nothing but a huge failure. We simply cannot afford 36 Houses of Assembly, 36 Cabinets of Commissioners, large number of State Legislators, National Assembly of more than 400 Legislators, thousands of staff for all these offices, over 40 Federal Ministers and numberless staff and assistants. On the 10th of September 2010, THISDAY Newspaper reported as follows:
”The amount expended annually to sustain members of the legislature in the states and National Assembly, many believe, is mind-boggling. Sources close to THISDAY revealed that the country spends N27 billion per annum on the salaries and emoluments of 109 senators while 360 members of the House of Representatives gulp down N73 billion, bringing the total to N100 billion ($667 million) expended on just 469 elected public officials.
When the emoluments, “constituency allowances” and other visible and invisible benefits paid to state legislators in each of the 36 states as well as the 7,888 Councillors who make bye-laws in the 774 local government areas, the annual cost of sustaining the entire army of 17,500 individuals holding political offices in the executive and legislative arms of government in Nigeria would amount to N1.3 trillion”.
This explains why the Conference made recommendations touching on the operation of this system of government. Prominent amongst this is the recommendation for the adoption of a hybrid between the Presidential and Parliamentary system of government in which the government would pick ministers from the National Assembly. Furthermore there will be a cap on the number of personal assistants which can be appointed by elected officials. I believe that these are important issues that should be taken to the People in the form of a referendum.
Number of states
There is also the issue of state creation. The consequential fragmentation of Nigeria into 36 states is unhelpful. Most of the so-called states were formally local governments or provinces. Such local governments were manned by District Offices and or Assistant District Officers. The provinces were manned by Residents, supported by Chief Clerk and Clerks. The substitution thereof of these District Offices and Residents with Governors, Deputy Governors, Legislative Houses is most unreasonable and uneconomical. The sight of these governors driving round in convoys of as many as 30 to 40 cars and motorcycle outriders worries the ordinary citizens who cannot afford three square meals, whose taps are dry and whose children are either unable to attend school due to non-payment of school fees or who are unemployed after laboring to get an education.
In the United States of America, the Federating States still possess a huge measure of independence. Thus each state is within clearly defined but expansive limits responsible for a remarkable number of aspects of its existence. The Federal Government is limited only to such matters as defense, foreign policy etc.
Finally it is worthy of note that the entire revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria is lower than that of Texas which is the second most populous and second largest state in the United States of America. If Nigeria’s revenue is therefore lower than that of one of over 50 states in the United States how can we hope to continue to copy and fund the Presidential system of government as practiced by the Americans? Despite this, the Conference actually recommended the creation of 18 more states. Again I believe that this issue should be decided by means of a referendum as caution must be exercised in relation to the proposal for the creation of new States.
It is common knowledge that all the States of the Federation without exception place great premium on Federal Allocations which comes to them from the federation account. That this is so is clear when it is considered that most States lack the resources to be self-sustaining and where those resources exist the leadership required to afford an exploitation of the said resources to the benefit of the citizenry has been largely lacking. Most States depend on federal allocation to pay salaries and maintain infrastructure with little or nothing left for capital development. A day ago, photographs of students of a secondary school in one of the States in the South-West sitting on the bare floor in their classroom went viral over the internet.
It is a notorious fact that most of the 36 states in Nigeria have failed to pay salaries to their workers for up to six months. It is also true that many retired workers have not been paid gratuities due to them. Worse still is the fact that many retired workers have not been paid pension due to them.
Recently, the Channels television showed pitiable pictures of retired workers who have not been paid their entitlements such as salaries, gratuity and or pension. Consequently, they were ejected by their landlords and are now living in abandoned primary schools. In some cases, some of them have become blind, while some are suffering from various infectious diseases. The pathetic conditions made many viewers to shed tears.
It is also true that in most of these affected states, no visible development can be seen.
In spite of the foregoing, the recently concluded National Constitutional Conference recommended additional states. The recommendation is one of those to be referred to the National Assembly. It is my considered view that the issue of creation of additional state is fundamental and should not be left to partisan politicians. The issue goes beyond party politics, having regard to the economic and other problems facing the country.
As I have stated earlier, a huge percentage of revenue accruing to the federal government and the states is expended on maintenance of political structures. The three arms of government existing at the federal level i.e. the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary are replicated across all the 36 States of the Federation with its attendant cost. Each State also contributes three members of the Senate and as many members of the House of Representatives as there are Federal constituencies in the State. Therefore, an increment in the number of States by 18 will have a profound effect not only on the existing States but also on the new states and the Federal Government itself.
In short, issues of additional states, abolition of states or reduction of number of states call for the votes of the people.
To be continued…
Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, CON, OFR